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Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society

The Laborde Home: Ming Grove 303 Shell Beach Drive

303ShellBeachDrive.032405According to the redoubtable Louise Boyer Jones, wife of reform Governor Sam H. Jones, “Ming Grove represents to me an area rather than a house. It means a way of life I wish for my mother, my children, my husband and me.

Just as the Chinese ‘add a room’ when their children marry, so will we add a house so that we may live separately and completely independently yet all share the lake front, boats and wharf.”

To a great extent this philosophy and life wish is still in place in this beautiful corner of waterfront Lake Charles. The stunning home, now resided in by the Laborde family, started out as the concept of Sam and Louise Jones, who spent years dreaming, planning and researching the first and only house Mrs. Jones would ever build.

Having been the First Lady of the State during the trying years of World War II, and the longtime spouse of a political figure and statesman, Mrs. Jones had had her share of temporary housing and makedo accommodations. With a pragmatic, forward-thinking and very modern approach to house design, she crafted a house like no other in the city, and one of the most innovative and unusual structures in the South in its day.

The tell-tale plate glass windows, oversized to offer perfect views of the lake and landscape, are but one of many modern and practical touches of this home which included a rare use of an elevator instead of grand staircases common in lakeshore houses. Astute observers of international politics in the Cold War era, the practical Joneses planned for a solid and secure safe-room that could also provide sanctuary in the event of petrochemical disaster.

 

The original plans included dozens of clever adaptations for modern living in the fifties! Some of the novel features are almost taken for granted in the 21st century, but which were considered remarkable, even revolutionary for the day, including custom built-in storage, central heating and cooling, and dual fuel connections to allow for easy appliance selection and replacement.

The original house was designed with and independent mother-in-law apartment, as efficient and as up-to-date as the rest of the sparkling fresh home. Custom furnishings and collections from years of political life and traveling were displayed and stored in the house, including the state seal in rosewood.

As the family needs changed, the house has been altered to allow for today’s lifestyle. A major addition to the west of the original “L” shaped house added needed square footage. The original kitchen, for example, was very compact and designed for the time when most families had help. The contemporary kitchen and family room allow for modern family participation at mealtimes and other events. The elevator succumbed to family needs and convenience and the back stairs now serve for accessing the second floor, however the character and style of Ming Grove still shine on its lakefront shore.